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STEVEN GONSALVES artist - "Holmes at Home" - sherlockian-sherlock.com interview
We know and our site proudly propagates as well that Sherlock Holmes is a very important part of culture. We are especially fond of the articles about the illustrators. It is a privilege to us to introduce a brilliant painter who is our contemporary, and on his painting Conan Doyle's famous hero comes alive, surrounded by his Baker Street home - depicted with canonical fidelity.
Please, tell us about yourself and what you’d like to share with us.
How do you do, my dear fellow Sherlockians? My name is Steven Gonsalves and I’m a self taught artist, living in New York City. I never had any formal training, but ever since I was a child growing up in Digby, Nova Scotia, my life has been an ongoing series of various art projects. One of which, I’d like to share with you today. It is a most singular painting of the interior at 221B Baker Street. The joy of painting, for me, is reveling in the precise details. With every Sherlock Holmes story I’ve watched, I imagined how delightful it would be to render that ornate Victorian decor. Even more so, to create a painting dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. To showcase his dynamic personality and reference his many perilous adventures. The vision was set. In November of 2014, I couldn’t resist the urge to begin. It took a painstaking three and half years to complete, but I can proudly say that I’m delivering to you, the ultimate homage to Holmes. A painting that captures his character and all the essentials that epitomize the well known flat on Baker Street.
Since when were you a Sherlockian?
Since 2008. When I was 30. Please, permit me to explain. It was quite by chance, actually. You see, I’ve never shied away from expressive fashion. Hip hop, hippy, grunge, goth, but I’ve, oddly, always appreciated the respectable look of formal wear. The air of maturity and intelligence. Not to mention, the instant confidence that it brings. So, naturally, when I moved to New York City in 2006, I bought some suits. The only problem was; everybody in midtown was wearing suits. I wanted to stand out from the bankers. To show my artistic flair. I decided I’d do it with my tie. So, I Googled, ‘fancy ties’. It brought me to a historical clothing website called historicalemporium.com. They had fancy ties. I bought three of them. But I couldn’t stop there. I loved everything! Waistcoats, morning coats, pocket watches, walking sticks, tombstone collars, bowler hats, dress gloves, dress boots and spats. Before you know it, I had a complete Victorian wardrobe… and no idea how to wear it. Proper hat etiquette… how to wield a walking stick… what side is the pocket watch worn? I figured, the best thing to do, is to watch and learn. So, I YouTube'd, ‘victorian tv shows’ and up came Sherlock Holmes. The 1954, Ronald Howard series, to be exact. I watched and learned all I was looking for, and more. I quickly became enamored with his character and his adventures. To this day, the majority of everything I read or watch, is either Sherlock or Victorian. It’s moved beyond obsession; and now, it’s just my life.
It means everything to me. Now, more than ever, in these turbulent times, it’s a pleasurable relief to step back into a simpler world. The original Sherlock Holmes canon is the perfect vehicle for just that. The talented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle preserved an entire time period, in a seemingly effortless manner. A period, in my opinion, that was the ideal height of humanity, before mankind got too clever for its own good. Besides the captivating adventures, the multi-faceted stories shed light on all sorts of life lessons. From friendship, relationships and social politics, to etiquette, wit and impeccable style sense. Now, more than ever, in a world of commercialized, genderized, CGI’d, emoji’d, cartooned and spoofed Sherlocks, we need to get back to the basics and appreciate the true essence of Sherlock Holmes. He’s not just a fictional character from some old stories. To me, he is a state of mind. A way of life. Being a Sherlockian is about respecting the past, as much as creating your own place in the present. Staying true to yourself. Realizing your talents and having the confidence to follow your passion, against all odds; even when others don’t understand your methods. It’s about observation and imagination. About demanding the best from yourself and pushing your faculties to the limit, in the pursuit of quality results. As well as, knowing when to take a break and reward yourself. All traits and obstacles I encounter in my chosen field of the arts.
Who is your favorite Holmes actor and story, and why?
Oh boy. So many to choose from. I enjoy all of the original stories and also, the “further adventures of…” fan-fiction series is great. I boast a personal DVD collection that spans from 1916 to 2019. Featuring no less than 15 actors who portray Holmes. I respect every decade’s adaptations to stay current. The obvious answer is Jeremy Brett. He was amazing and the books came to life in that long run production (and it was in color, which is not always the case in the history of Sherlock filmography), but my first love was Ronald Howard. His approachable charm is what roped me in from the beginning. I hum that opening number more than any other. But, can we just give a moment of appreciation for Rupert Everett in the Case of the Silk Stocking. Wish he did more Holmes movies.
Interesting fact on the Holmes in the painting… It's a composite of all the actors/inspirations I felt rung truest to Doyle’s description: Peter Cushing’s hairline, with Ronald Howard’s waves, Basil Rathbone’s brows and eyes, Joseph Bell’s nose, Jeremy Brett’s ear and mouth and William Gillette’s jaw.
Blue Carbuncle! I watch it the most. It’s a great little mystery with many memorable quotes. Also, Copper Beeches. Probably because I’ve been a hairstylist, by day, since 1997. That story always compels me. Also, Charles Augustus Milverton! He’s so despicable! I suppose that’s my top favorites, and why. I’d love to hear a list of other fan’s favorite actors, story and why!!!
When did you start painting and who influenced you the most?
I’m going to break that down into parts. Drawing and painting are the same to me. A sound foundation of drawing is at the root of most good paintings. When I was 5, I obsessively colored in my coloring books, when I was 6, I obsessively designed scrapbooks, and when I was 7 (1985), I obsessively began to draw. People took note, “I did it well”. It’s a trait that runs strong through my family. I’m the youngest of six, and when we were young, we would sit around the dinner table drawing our favorite tv characters, for fun. My mother, Linda, was often painting beautiful sunsets and my sister, Carean, was often rendering Vogue models or painting copies of classics like Vermeer, Degas or Ingres. There was plenty of inspiration. Influences continue to evolve. It went from Dali to Rosenquist to DaVinci to Leighton. I make it an effort to continually discover more artists and be inspired everyday.
What are the things you are most proud of (in your life and in your art)?
I’m proud that I’ve always followed my heart. I’ve always made my art my top priority and never compromised (for better or for worse). I’ve managed to make my life an art. I’m proud that I’ve designed my living space into an exquisite Victorian cocktail bar and lounge. Check it out on Instagram, @thatsherlocklife.
Also, I could never find a decent art slideshow on YouTube, so I’ve composed an unbeatable chronological art history slideshow, from 1230 A.D. to now, with 300+ artist and 1300+ images, all labeled with titles, dates, etc., easily plugged into any tv or computer. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that I was experimental… enough to paint pictures using hair dye, or anything else that was easily accessible around me ( - check out the gallery at www.sodetailed.com, to see that).
What are your favorite topics besides Sherlock Holmes when you paint?
I’m not picky. People, places, things… you know; nouns. A portrait, a cityscape, a tree. As long as I switch it up each time. Generally, if I do a picture from life, then I’ll want to do the next one from a photo and then the next one from imagination. I like to keep it balanced. If I do one, as a commission, then I‘ll do the next one for myself. Looking back, I seem to be equally infatuated with the natural feminine beauty and the man-made, architectural beauty. That seems to be my lot in life. Balancing the natural with the man-made.
What causes do you want to support?
It’s a tough world. The pain outweighs the beauty. All of the injustice and cruelty. The tragedy of time itself. I’m not pushing any particular agenda. Just to remind people to be patient and understanding, with themselves and others. Make the most out of every situation and try to stay positive and be thankful.
Thank you very much for the interview, we really feel honoured. And if you'll have other Sherlock-themed paintings in the future, we'd be glad to show them. We wish you the best, lots of success and good health in your life and in your career. We also hope that your message about the importance of kindness will reach lots of people.